Organizing my websites

I run four websites for my own business activities:

  • Red Tuxedo, where I talk about productivity and being useful in social media
  • Rugs from Rags, where I write about making textile art
  • Karen Tiede Studio, where I sell my Textile Art
  • Karen Tiede.com, where I write about all the other artsy things I do for love and fun including hula hooping

It’s a handful.

January turned out to be a month of clearing and decluttering and getting rid of stuff and putting stuff in places I could find it in a pinch. This mostly happened in my real life. I’m not done, but I have hauled a lot of stuff to the swap shed and the recycle bins.

February is turning out to be a time of cleaning out my electronic life. My digital records. I started my going through my pictures folder, where I have over 14 gig of images, many of which are duplicates or junk or not needed. I know digital storage is cheap, but my backup system only takes 125 gigs and I have exceeded it a couple of times already. It’s worth a little bit of TV time to cull pictures and reduce that total size if I can.

I found myself creating two and three blog post day the sites I routinely manage. I’ve learned how to dictate blog post from my phone, and upload pictures directly from my phone, and it’s all very fun and easy.

What it’s not, however, is “clear.” I don’t know where stuff goes. I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know where to put it. And I do believe that “if you can’t find it, you don’t own it,” and if I can’t find an article on a website, neither can you. All this content is not driving any business my way if nobody can find it.  Even worse, none of this content can drive traffic until it is published, and I had nearly 100 posts sitting in draft status at the beginning of last week, over 8 years of managing websites.

It became obvious it was time to align my websites, so that I could tell reliably where stuff went, so I knew how to categorize blog posts and where to put them, and so I knew what I had.

Three years ago, I moved my websites from one host to another, and it was a royal muck-up. Pretty much all the content got duplicated against three different sites. I  wrestled the bigger pieces apart, but the older blog posts wound up everywhere.

The first step in organizing was to cross-check each of the sites against the other, and make sure blog posts lived on the site where they belong, and not on any others. This was fairly simple. I displayed both two sites’ post listings side-by-side, checking titles and deleting duplicate posts from the site where they did not belong. This resulted in the loss of roughly 50 posts on each site. Progress.

Then it was time to make sure each of the posts was listed in the correct categories. This turned out to be much more challenging.

I have, from time to time, turn to the Dewey Decimal System as an organizing principle. It’s academic, I agree, I understand, and that’s me. Deal with it. It is also widely understood and followed, and reliable.

I have a paper (book) guide to the Dewey Decimal System, which goes to the two-digit decimals. It is about an inch and a half thick. A guide that goes to three decimal places is approximately 6 feet long. Google will not give me helpful results in asking about what category a particular idea belongs in. Google just sends me to Dewey Decimal references. I think there ought to be a better way, but I can’t find it. Therefore I have to trust my book and its index. This may be a bit of a force fit; yet I’m able to be consistent.

Revising blog category listings to be consistent.

Revising blog category listings to be consistent.

I had to start with the major categories. Mostly, I write about technology, and Fine Arts, although there is a little bit about ideas, so I cover the 000, the 600s, and the 700s. I use those as my major headings and then used second headings for the subcategories.

On KarenTiede.com I write about home ec. I used to write about sewing on that website before I moved Textile Art to Rugs From Rags, so I left those posts there. That they have huge numbers of links. (Today, I would put those posts on rugs from Rags, but I don’t want to move them.)

On Rugs From Rags, pretty much all the post fall under Fine Arts, specifically 746 textiles. There’s a little bit of marketing.

Red Tuxedo turns out to more challenging, because it’s mostly about business and social media. My edition of the Dewey Decimal guidelines doesn’t even have Facebook in the index. It was written long before the internet. I may have to go to the library and walk around the nonfiction section slowly, looking for Dewey Decimal numbers to know where to put stuff.

I am an amateur taxonomist. I enjoy walking around a large store, imagining the taxonomy behind product display.  Taxonomy is why you can walk into the grocery store and pretty much figure out where things are going to be. Websites ought to be the same way. I think it would be helpful if websites could send you clearly to articles you might be interested in.

For today, applying the Dewey Decimal System to my own content is going to have to do. It forces me to think about what do I write about, and where does it go, and how is any one of these posts related to any other.

I want all the days 

My new year-view planner arrived yesterday and spent the day rolled out on the floor being flattened. Before I went outside to exercise this morning, I pinned it to the door across from my desk, so it would be there when I came back into write.

Now, I’m sitting at my desk, with the calendar in front of me when I look up, and I’m feeling a discomforting yearning.
I want all the days.

Year View planner from Best Self.

Year View planner from Best Self.

I want all the days to be wide-open, unstructured, with the freedom to make art, or write, as much as I want, and I want it to be like this all year. Most of the time, I don’t experience this feeling as acutely as I am experiencing it right now. Most of the time, I don’t look at an entire year at one glance.

Perhaps this is why I have not done a lot of full-year planning before.

A friend of mine says, “you can’t drive all the cars on the highway,” when he talks about road rage. I can’t have “all the days,” not all at once, not all rolled into one.

All I have is today. Even less than that, all I have is this exact moment, 8 a.m., dim light, probably going to be a sunny day but not sure about that yet. That’s why I didn’t edit the photo to make it look any brighter. This is exactly what it looks like right now, at this moment, from my desk.

I think I need to look ahead more than I have been doing. I certainly can’t defend my previous planning exercises based on the results. I believe I am more useful to myself and to my art if I have some moderately clear idea of what I would like to have accomplished within a certain period of time. Certainly, it would be useful to look ahead, and know where my big obligations are coming, so that I can be more ready ahead.

And at the same time, I am not thrilled with this discomforting feeling of wanting to know how the whole year is going to be. Perhaps better planning, which in my case is any planning at all, might make it possible to have more days be the way I love them being: no makeup, no driving, no appointments, lots of art. Still, planning doesn’t solve for one day at a time, and living in the moment, and “hell is wanting to be somewhere else.”  I’m going to cut that header off the calendar.  There is no winning and losing; there is only today, right now.

Incidentally, I do not like the weekends being marked in bright yellow.  They could have been marked in a shade with much much less contrast.  Similarly, the black “day” boxes are illegible, and useless from here.  I can tell Monday; it’s the day after yellow.  Sigh.

I find myself wondering if this is more a planner or a tracker; time will tell how it turns out.

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Ramp Class

When Nigel had to go to the vet last week with what turned out to be a slipped disk in his neck, I had to lift him in and out of the truck three times. 70# of screaming Labrador is a hard lift. I remembered the ramp later, but he’d never used it and had to be shoved up it into the truck.

Can't reach the treat with two feet on the ground.

Can’t reach the treat with two feet on the ground.

Today, we had Ramp Class. Treats were involved. Everyone figured it out, Nigel quite comfortably.

After a few tries, Nigel decided the treats were worth the trouble.

After a few tries, Nigel decided the treats were worth the trouble.

If your dog is larger than you really want to lift, think about Ramp Class before you need it.

Running right on through.

Running right on through.

Wooster is not really convinced that it’s safe, but he finally figured out the only way to the treats was by running up the ramp.

Somebody needs a bit of extra encouragement.

Somebody needs a bit of extra encouragement, and Nigel offers to demonstrate again, in hopes of getting another cookie.

I wish I’d thought to do this before I needed it last week. Took two days for my back to be friendly to me again.

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Review: How Much Should I Charge?

Pricing Basics for Making Money Doing What You Love

Writing this review in part to respond to the person who said the 5-star people must be family members. Not at all. Simply people who perhaps didn’t take a business course in high school (do they have those courses now?), or didn’t understand accounting as it was presented in college, or never thought they would be considering self-employment after 20 years of picking up a paycheck.

After eight years of part-time home business, I have missed grasping the difference between billable hours, overhead costs, and profit. I am most grateful that I had the sense to pick this book up at the library (“doing what you love” caught my eye) and now I am here buying it, and its companion. It took no time at all to read How Much Should I Charge, and perhaps buying it is a waste of money. I get the concept now.

However, I have spent a lot of time not understanding the concept, and I won’t be surprised if the finer points evaporate before I complete all the price-development exercises. I can make $30 back in one adjusted price on a piece of art.

I am envious, perhaps, of people who intuitively understand the relationship between effort and costs and pricing. Those people will waste their time and money with this book. I’m almost tempted, however, to buy in bulk and give copies away as project-end gifts to a number of contractors I know who, like me, flail when it comes to understanding the connection between their work and their income. Their rates may go up, but they will be more likely to stay in business…

How Much Should I Charge?

Oh no, It’s one of THOSE things!

Wire file folder desktop rack.

Wire file folder desktop rack.

I’m cleaning off one of my desks. At the back of the desk, I found two wire racks.

“What is it?” I wondered. And then it hit me: this is one of those racks that supposed to hold file folders upright, at the back of your desk, so you can see them all.

Death on a stick. Look carefully: there’s another one of these racks, in smoke plastic, right behind the wire rack.

I bring these home, from the swap shed, from the thrift shop, & I think somehow, if I can see all the files I’m working on, I’ll be more on top of things.

Instead, what happens is that the racks get pushed to the back of the desk, or they get full of file folders that I never look at, and maybe they get dumped. They don’t serve their intended purpose, certainly, not in my house; not on my desk.

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho, to the metal bin we shall go,” just as soon as my local dump opens again after the ice storm shut down. That’s why I’m cleaning out today anyway–the ice storm. Can’t go anywhere else; might as well create some more space for myself.

One day, I will come to terms with my organizing style, and quit bringing these things home. That may or may not be now. Don’t make promises about what’s going to happen tomorrow, when I find the perfect matching set of desk accessories. For today this will go.

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Save

Year view planner

I’ve been cleaning out my studio; I found a 2004 calendar that I had saved for the pictures. At the back were two pages designed to show the full year, day by day.

2004 Year-view planner

I use a lot of outdated calendars as record books. They show up in the thrift shop stream. If all I need is the shape of the week, or the month, or the dates, I relabel the date-day information, and use the spaces for my purposes.

I tried marking the 2017 weekends in yellow highlighter, but the grey weekend markings of 2004 still showed up. I’m not completely sure I need to know when the weekends are for the purposes of this exercise.

I started making notes. My business would be different if I sent out a newsletter twice a month, so I marked that on the calendar.

The notes on the large yellow sticky, lower left, are about posting from my phone directly into WP, and from there onto social sites using the Jetpack Publicize tool. I have only recently started creating website content live, using pictures uploaded from my phone and dictating directly into WordPress. It’s easy for WordPress sites, but I don’t think I can do it for my Shopify store, yet. I need to look into that.

At this point, it was obvious I had a rough draft, rather than a finished plan, so I started making notes directly on the calendar as well as on stickies.

I don’t need to track individual posts on a year view planner, although I might track marketing activity, so that I meet my goal of running a paid ad every day.

I thought about creating 365 posts, distributed across the various websites I manage. I can do that in my sleep. I’m good at posts.

As I worked with the calendar, and thought about my business, and thought about what needs to happen, I had a nagging feeling that all I was doing was the planning equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Not to be too severe about it, but I do this already. I have great documentation of what I have done. Looking at my posts over a full year on one page, isn’t really any different than logging them on monthly calendars the way I have been doing for 3 years. Deep in my heart, I knew nothing would change. Deep in my wallet, I know a lot needs to change, quickly.

I also know that there is an entirely new product line waiting to be developed, and it has been waiting for either 20 years, or 6 months, or both, depending on how you look at it. I call it my greeting card line, although it is bigger than that. It’s about incorporating my answers on Quora, with my life philosophy, and perhaps a new body of work I am calling the Illustrated I Ching, and a lot of other new art. It needs to be created, developed, and marketed. It’s not getting done under the current system.

That thought first showed up on the purple sticky, and then I realized how important it was. I moved it to the page in blue Sharpie.

That seemed like a breakthrough, but after a moment’s reflection, I realized I still hadn’t figured out how I was going to get the new work done. Except I do know how to do that. I’ve done it before.

Three years ago, I faced a serious cardiac problem, one that didn’t have a great medical solution. Rather than going home to sit around and get sicker so that I qualified for a pacemaker, I changed my life, one day at a time. In the real world, that looked like showing up to daily exercise (one day off a month), changing my diet, giving up diet drinks, taking new supplements, and incorporating everything that showed up to have a healthier life (not repairing the riding lawn mower when it broke, for example, and instead, moving 1.5 acres with a push mower).

Art is no different. I am an Anne Lamont fan: her readers will recognize both “start with one bird,” (Pirsig fans will remember the same thought as “one brick”), and “write really shitty first drafts.”

In other words, Show. Up. To. The. Work.

I was done for the moment; I turned to email. I had to laugh. I had an offer from the good people at AppSumo, for a $15 large format full year planner for 2017 (special offer good through Jan 17), in exactly the same format. The calendar from Best Self (same calendar, purchased directly) uses a top and bottom layout to fit everything on the page. On one hand it shouldn’t matter, and on the other hand, it always does. I bought the planner and will cut it and glue it together so that I see the whole year at one level. The weekends will be correct for 2017.

Until it arrives, I will keep working on this draft version. I need to put time in my life for new work. It’s harder to schedule; it’s not clearly defined the way client work and teaching prep are. That’s the problem, and that’s why it needs to be planned into the year. If I don’t make the opportunity happen, it won’t, and it will be November and I’ll still be thinking about creating a greeting card line.

Stay tuned.

Vertical version of the image to use for Pinterest.

2004 Year View Planner.

2004 Year View Planner, rotated to make a better Pin.

Shearon Harris on Instagram

When I started teaching social media, we talked about Instagram and couldn’t really see how to use it for business. I created an account, simply to have my hand in the game. I decided to post pictures of the cooling tower, which I pass every time I go to Raleigh. It’s visible from all over the Triangle, all the way to Smithfield, if you know what and where to look.

Some other images show up in the feed from time to time. Industrial plants, like the Moncure Plywood plant. A factory on the James River in Richmond, VA.

The picture of the F15s on the runway is available from Karen’s Custom Framing in Goldsboro, NC. The picture was taken during a war games exercise. I count 80 planes on the runway. I have spent a lot of years in and around America’s military, but much of the time, photography was or is not allowed.

Posting regularly got me in the habit of using Instagram. It’s been a useful exercise.

On a more colorful note, I also maintain an Instagram account for art of a different kind, at Karen Tiede Studio.

Shopify Traffic

I opened my Shopify store, Karen Tiede Studio, in March. I was pleasantly surprised to log in yesterday and see this message on my dashboard:

Shopify Traffic Message

Shopify Traffic Message

I need to do more research to see if I can find a few more anchor points. I know that half of all the stores that are started, are published (which means that half never make it out of the gate). Shopify tells me today that there are 230,185 stores using the platform.

Stay tuned. There’s an 80/20 analysis waiting to happen around here somewhere.

Dragontree Planner Review

I collect planners. More hope is sold in the planner aisle at Staples than at Max Factor… The NEXT planner will solve my problems…. the NEXT planner will make me organized.

(Heck, I get as much benefit from last year’s calendars as I do from a new planner; they all have value. Often, I don’t need alignment between numbers and days. I only need the shapes of time. Different story.)

I saw the Rituals for Living Dreambook+Planner from The Dragontree on Instagram; looked interesting. The PDF version was an affordable experiment. The layout of quarters and months and weeks looked a bit new to me. I printed off the various pages that contained information I wanted to know, as well as one each of the quarter, month, and weekly layouts, so I could see in detail how they were set up. I hate reading PDFs online.

Selected pages from the Dragontree Planner.

Selected pages from the Dragontree Planner.


(Yes, that’s the way my desk looks much of the time.)

Good: Lots of information about how to think about planning; a mindful approach to integrating work and life; I like the content about creating rituals.

I like undated books; you can skip weeks if you don’t need them, and the unused pages don’t time out.

Less than great: The text is teeny weesny itty bitty, making me think the designers have not yet reached the age of needing reading glasses. This might be less of a problem if you purchase the professionally printed copy; I bought the PDF and printed onto ordinary paper with an aging inkjet.

Note Saturday and Sunday share a space. That’s not the way I live. My Saturdays and Sundays deserve (and get, in my regular planner) equal attention and respect as M-F.

No page numbers on the printed copy.

The bolded text on the daily (week-view) layout interferes with my own writing. ALL-CAPS heading, in bold, in tiny type, on my printer, are nearly illegible and therefore, merely blobs. (Most PDF-print-it-yourself tools face some version of this problem.) Rituals list is in all caps. Would be better for me if it weren’t.

Summary: I purchased the planner as a suggestion for tweaks to incorporate into my own planning system (a glued up amalgam of Outlook printouts and numbered pages in a hard-bound book, with add-ins), and I learned some new ideas.

If you think you will be using this planner for important work, you might do well to buy the professionally printed version. (Read someone else’s review to see if the paper suits your taste. I can’t speak to that part.)lanner

Knitters Do Math

I had my hula hoops in the infield at the 2016 Clyde Fest, Bynum ballpark, on Saturday. When you’re in a 10 x 10 tent at an event like this, lots of your friends will stop by and talk to you.

I got on the topic of 8020 with one of my friends. He was familiar with rule. He knew how to apply it in politics. I explained how we taught it in the social media class at NC State, using the Pareto principle to evaluate the most productive part of the marketing budget. I talked through the example we use in class, doing the math in my head. I suspect he was about to have an interesting Sunday as he thought about applying the 8020 rule to parts of his business he hadn’t thought about that way before.

He had stories of his own, where he had been able to do some ballpark estimation, and save enormous amounts of door-to-door work.

We joked about how few people are able to do math, and how complicated they make it.

(You may never have considered that hula hooping is an example of physics: it’s all about angular momentum.

L = m * v * r, and bigger radius, bigger mass, means you can have less velocity and still keep the going. In short bigger is easier.)

Then today, I sat down to look at ring 9 of the that I’m knitting as a fundraiser for the Pulse shooting in Orlando Florida. I’m not thrilled with the way the designer has laid out the final round. I’m in ring 7 now, so I have a couple of days to think about what I want to do.

The shawl is designed to incorporate 49 heart motifs, one for every person who died at the club that night. So far I’m working on 42, 6 in the 1st 12 in the 2nd and 24 and the 3rd ring. I need to knit 7 more. At 24 stitches per heart, and 576 stitches per ring, that leaves a lot of space in ring 9.

The designer selected intarsia with blocks of one color for the hearts and one color for honeycomb in between them. Intarsia requires knitting back and forth and I don’t like doing that; I like to knit forward all the time which you can do on circular needles.

I thought there must be a lacy heart pattern somewhere in my collection of books about knitting. I went through them today, and I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Marian Kinzel, in Modern Lace Knitting, has two heart patterns but they are too big for what I want.

Working out the details for a section of 53 smaller hearts.

Working out the details for a section of 53 smaller hearts.

I started sketching and counting and doing math and subtracting 24 stitches per heart for 7 hearts. I wanted 53 additional hearts, one for each person who was injured at the club. It came out to roughly 8 stitches a heart. If I knit them side-by-side, that wasn’t going to work to all, but I’m a designer. I played and I figured out a way to do it. I need to check the details and I need to test a swatch to make sure to work the way I think it will.

I took a picture of my work and posted it to the work in progress blog posts I’m creating for the shawl on Karen Tiede Studio. And then I realized why it was so easy for me to talk math on Saturday. I do this stuff all the time. Knitters, and textile artist in general, do math every day of the week, when recalculating warp and weft, when we’re figuring out whether we have enough to finish the round, when we need to know we need to make changes in a pattern to fit us or because we don’t like the way it’s going.

Teach your children to knit. You can sneak some math and at the same time and they’ll hardly notice.

Working on Ring 7, with 24 hearts, in gold mohair.

Working on Ring 7, with 24 hearts, in gold mohair.